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New South Wales

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Australia's First State
Exploring New South Wales ... Sea Cliff Bridge on the Grand Pacific Drive

Exploring New South Wales ... Sea Cliff Bridge on the Grand Pacific Drive

© Tourism Illawarra

For visitors to Australia, the city — Sydney — is most likely better known than the state — New South Wales.

Australia's first state — and before that, Britain's first colony in Australia — New South Wales had its beginnings at Port Jackson with the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 and the establishment of the settlement that was to become today's Sydney.

Initially, the colony of New South Wales occupied much of the land area of the Australian continent as well as New Zealand across the Tasman Sea.

Parts of this colony were later hived off to form the separate colonies of Tasmania, then named Van Diemen's Land, in 1825; South Australia in 1836, Victoria in 1851, and Queensland in 1859.

Following the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand was separated from New South Wales in 1841.

The state of New South Wales, including Lord Howe Island, today comprises just over 800,000 square kilometres, and is the fifth largest of Australia's states and territories.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the state's estimated population at June 2011 was 7.21 million, with 4.61 million residing in the greater Sydney area.

Coastal cities and towns

The New South Wales coastal cities, towns and villages, from Tweed Heads at the southern edge of Queensland's Gold Coast in the north to the old whaling community of Eden in the south ae particularly popular with visitors seeking fine beaches, and aquatic activities such as swimming, surfing, sailing and fishing.

Popular coastal destinations north of Sydney include The Entrance, Port Stephens, Port Macquarie and Byron Bay. South of Sydney are the towns and villages along the Grand Pacific Drive, Jervis Bay, Narooma, Bermagui and Eden.

Wine regions

One of Australia's oldest and better-known wine regions is the Hunter Valley northwest of Newcastle with more than 70 wineries.

Besides the Hunter, there are some 13 other wine regions in the state, including Mudgee, which are coming more and more into prominence.

The Blue Mountains

West of Sydney and part of the Great Dividing Range which runs along the continent's eastern and southeastern coastline, the Blue Mountains region, a World Heritage site, is a popular and accessible visitor destination with mostly natural, and several man-made, attractions.

Among the most visited Blue Mountains places are Katoomba with its massive rock formation, the Three Sisters, and Scenic World off Cliff Drive with its cablecars crossing expanses high above the valley and the steepest railway to the valley floor; and the Jenolan Caves an hour and a bit from Katoomba.

Winter in New South Wales

In the wintertime, and into early spring, New South Welshmen and visitors alike with a penchant for winter activities head to the Snowy Mountains southwest of Sydney.

For skiing in New South Wales, the state's best known ski resorts are Thredbo and Perisher Valley with their constellation of ski slopes in the Kosciuszko National Park and Mt Selwyn along the Snowy Mountains Highway.

The New South Wales ski season starts from the Queen's Birthday holiday weekend and can continue until Labor Day.

And what about Christmas?

Yes, what about Christmas? Because Christmas occurs in the Australian summer, the good people of the Blue Mountains celebrate Christmas in July.

The state's symbols

The state flower of New South Wales is the waratah, and the animal and bird emblems are the platypus and the kookaburra respectively. The blue groper is the state's fish symbol and the black opal the state gemstone.

The state's borders

New South Wales is bounded on the north by Queensland, south by Victoria, east by the Pacific, and west by South Australia.

The Australian Capital Territory, inland from the New South Wales South Coast, is within the land area of New South Wales but not a part of it.

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